I geek out for critic's lists (magazines, significant review sites, etc) of "Best Albums of..." each year. Metacritic does a great job of compiling them all with a final artist list of how many times they made a list, what places, etc. Then they award points for achieving certain places on lists, which leaves us with the Metacritic "best of" list.
Check out Metacritic's list of lists for 2012, just released yesterday. It changes as each reputable critic or site posts their list. This page from Metacritic is one of the best sources for checking out new music that I missed in a particular year. The lists tend to sway a few older artists into a place they don't deserve because of their lifetime of work, in my opinion. But otherwise it's solid.
Here's the top 10 points earners as of 12.5.2012 at about noon. Album link is to their list of reviews on that album. Click "buy it" to check it out on Amazon.
- Channel Orange by Frank Ocean (buy it)
- Lonerism by Tame Impala (buy it)
- Visions by Grimes (buy it, $5)
- Blunderbuss by Jack White (buy it)
- Good Kid, m.A.A.d City by Kendrick Lamar (buy it)
- Tempest by Bob Dylan (buy it)
- Tramp by Sharon Van Etten (buy it, $6.99)
- Old Ideas by Leonard Cohen (buy it)
- Boys & Girls by Alabama Shakes (buy it)
- World Music by Goat (buy it, $6.99)
If you click over you will find their longer list. Scroll down to see top 10's from magazines, websites, critics, and stores.